5 Symptoms of Worn Brake Pads (& Replacement Cost)

The brake pads wear down every time you press the brake pedal and therefore they need to be replaced from time to time. Here's how to tell your brake pads are worn

worn brake pad

The brake pads in a car are an essential part of a braking system. They play a major role in ensuring that your car comes to a halt at the right time.

Brake pads are located between the brake calipers and the brake rotor. When they come into contact with the brake discs’ metallic surface, friction occurs, and your car comes to a halt.

However, the brake pads’ constant rubbing against the brake discs causes them to wear so much that you may eventually have problems stopping your car. Let’s take a look at the signs:

The most common symptom of worn brake pads is grinding or squealing noises when braking. In many newer car models, you will also notice a wear indicator on your dashboard when the brake pads are worn. It can also cause a spongy brake pedal in some cases.

Because of the importance of the brake pads, there is a lot of symptoms that could occur. Here is a more detailed list of the 5 most common symptoms of bad or worn brake pads.

Worn or Bad Brake Pads Symptoms

1. Grinding or squealing noise

noise from car

If you hear a grinding or squealing noise when you press the brake pedal, it may be because the brake pads are completely worn out. This may be because when the brake pad material is completely gone – you will hear the metal plate on the brake pad press against the metal brake rotor.

As you can imagine, metal against metal will cause a horrible noise. If you hear a horrible noise when you brake, it is definitely time to check your brake pads.

2. Wear indicator

brake wear indicator

Most newer cars have brake wear indicators when 2-3 mm or 0.04″ to 0.1″ left of the brake pad material. If you see a wear indicator on your dashboard, it is time to check your brake pads.

The wear indicator wires and connectors can often cause the wear indicator to give false alarms on the dashboard, but it is worth checking.

Most cars only have a wear indicator on the front brakes, though, while a few have it on both axles.

3. Spongy Brake Pedal

brake pedal push

If you feel that your brake pedal became spongy when you press the brake pedal, it may be caused by a bad brake pad. This can happen when parts come loose from the brake pad, and it will cause the brake pedal plate to bend when you press the brake pedal.

To see damaged brake pads by parts that came loose, you often need to remove the brake pedals to inspect. Just a fast inspection from the outside might not be enough.

4. Longer brake distance

longer brake distance

If the brake pads are worn to the metal plate, it will surely cause a much longer brake distance. This is because metal against metal doesn’t create the same amount of friction to stop your car.

It can also be the case that parts of the brake pad came loose and this will also cause less friction against the brake rotor.

5. Scratches on the brake rotor surface

brake rotor scratch marks

If you notice nasty scratches and a strange surface on the brake rotor, it could be because the brake pad is so worn that it went to the metal plate.

This is often very visible if you compare the surface against the other brake rotors of your car.

The function of a brake pad

new brake pads

The brake pads are made of steel and hard rubber. They are made to withstand a crazy amount of heat, dust, and other particles.

They are installed between the brake caliper and the brake rotor. When you press the brake pedal, the brake pad is pushed against the brake rotor, which causes friction. This friction will cause your car to slow down and finally come to a stop.

There is a lot of different materials in brake pads, depending on the manufacturer. Some are better than others regarding wear and brake distance.

How to check your brake pads

checking brake pad

Checking your brake pads in a car is often very straightforward. The thing you need is a flashlight. Point the flashlight inside of the rim against the brake rotor.

Look for the part of the picture above and make sure there is at least 0,15″ – 0.2″ or 4-5mm left of the brake pad; otherwise, it is time for a replacement.

Some rims can make it difficult to inspect the brake pad from the outside. In this case, you should remove the wheel for an inspection.

It is actually more common for the inner brake pad to wear out before the outer brake pads – so I strongly recommend removing the rim for an inspection or checking it with a small mirror.

Brake Pads Replacement Cost

The average brake pads replacement cost is between $80 and $300, depending on the car model and labor costs. The Brake pads cost $30 – $100 and the labor costs $50 to $250.

The front brake pads are often more expensive than the rear ones. You also need to know that you might have to replace the brake rotors simultaneously as a brake pad replacement if they are bad.

If you have an electric parking brake, you also need diagnostic tools to replace the rear brake pads.

Brake pad replacement is often pretty straightforward, so if you have a little bit of knowledge, you can often do it yourself – if it doesn’t have an electronic parking brake. Then you need a diagnostic tool to push back the pistons.

Written by:

Magnus is the owner and main author of MechanicBase. He has been working as a mechanic for over 10 years, and the majority of them specialized in advanced diagnostics and troubleshooting. He has also been a motorsport (drifting) driver for over 5 years.